Review: Suicide Squad

suicide squadTo preface my thoughts on Suicide Squad, I will state that I went into this film with very little knowledge of the characters or the story. In other words, I had only seen what the trailers had shown me, with no influence from comics. I hadn’t heard the best things about the film before I saw it, but I was still pretty excited, and I went with a large group of family, which added greatly to the experience as a whole. Despite the fun and the hype, however, I was incredibly disappointed with the film itself. Allow me to explain why.

 

First off, like pretty much every other human on the planet, I can’t help but compare DC films to their Marvel equivalents. I would say that Suicide Squad is probably the DC equivalent of The Avengers. But here’s the thing about The Avengers… there were 5 movies leading up to it (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk [sort of], Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger) – building the hype, introducing the characters. We viewers had time to bond with and become invested in the back-stories of these characters. So when we got to see all our favorite pals meet and work together in The Avengers, it was exciting, because we already knew these guys. Marvel did the same thing with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. New characters were introduced with their own back-story films in between the subsequent collaboration films. DC, however, for whatever reason, decided to skip all of those intriguing back-stories and just jump straight into the collaboration. Now, there are some pros to that method.

 

For one, I’ve heard that many people feel overwhelmed with the Marvel universe. If you haven’t already seen all the Marvel movies, it’s tough to know where to start, and the sheer number of films you have to get through in order to enjoy the “bigger” pictures can be overwhelming. Another pro, if you can call it a pro, is that it’s easier (or, in other words, lazier) to make one movie than six. However, I believe the cons far outweigh the pros.

 

The biggest con of skipping all the hard work of creating an intricate universe of stories that intertwine perfectly and lead to an epic collaboration is that you’re left with one semi-stand-alone film (I say “semi” because they did at least attempt to connect this film to the Batman/Superman universe) that has to attempt to encompass a story that should have been, or at the very least could have been told over the span of at least 4 films. A large portion of the film was flashbacks of Harley Quinn, The Joker, Deadshot, and Diablo, all of which could have easily been separate films (and all of which would have been much more interesting than Suicide Squad). While the flashbacks, in my opinion, were the best part of the film (and that says a lot, I think), if there had been previous movies to work off of, they could have cut the flashbacks altogether, or at least left them a fraction of the length. That would leave us with just a quick reminder here and there rather than such long side-plots that rip your attention away from the current storyline. This would have also provided a lot more time to work with, which would have given them the opportunity to focus more on the events of this particular film, which given the lack of time, felt rushed and forced.  I couldn’t have said it better than my husband, so I won’t try to:

 

“It felt like the only reason the bad thing was happening was so the good guys could come fix it. Which I guess is always the case in movies like this, but as a viewer, you shouldn’t be able to see that so clearly.”

 

I agree completely. The entire purpose of conflict in a story is to provide the opportunity for resolution. But the job of a good writer is to create such a well-organized and believable story that the viewer doesn’t feel that sense of purpose. The events should feel natural, like they would have happened without any outside help, like the conflict arose out of itself and our writers simply created a solution to the problem that already existed. It should not feel like the conversation between writers went like this:

 

“Oh shoot… we’ve got all this awesome background and cool shots of Harley Quinn being sexy and badass and stuff, but we don’t have any villain for these guys to fight. Thoughts?”

“Hm… I guess we could have that one chick be evil.”

“Well, she’s just one person. That’s not really big enough.”

“Fine, maybe she has a brother.”

“Uh… okay, but how is the brother going to get there?”

“Idk. He’ll just be there. Don’t worry about it.”

“Should we put in any more background on her and the brother, or nah?”

“Nah, let’s focus on Harley and Joker’s backstory. That’s what the people really want to see anyway.”

 

True. We do want to see that. Which is why it probably would have made more sense (and more money for you) to give us a full film about it before this one. Also, to be fair, the above mock-conversation is obviously hyperbole and probably ignorant of me, given that I know nothing about the comic book stories. I’m aware that the Enchantress plot probably was planned from the beginning of production, but my point is that this is how it felt as a viewer. And isn’t that really what counts in the end? Intent doesn’t matter much if your execution is sloppy.

 

Long story short, I was very disappointed with the quality of the story of Suicide Squad. They tried to do way too much in one film, and it left them with no time to create a believable and well-thought-out battle sequence (or story leading up to the battle sequence, really). Honestly, the only thing this movie did well was creating awesome, interesting back-stories for the characters and choosing amazing actors to play said characters. The issue is, that just further proves my point that they should have spent even more time on background, thus making 2/3 of the scenes in Suicide Squad moot, and maybe they would do a better job of making a good Avengers-like collaboration film for the squad of villain-heroes we would all know and love. I’d still love to see a good background film for Harley and The Joker, Deadshot, Diablo, and even the Asian chick with the katana whose name I can’t remember. And heck, even Enchantress! Maybe I would be more interested in her and her brother if I understood anything about where they came from and why they’re here and why I’m supposed to care. Unfortunately, DC kind of missed its opportunity to do this well, as making these background films pre-Suicide Squad would have been the way to go. But I’m still hoping they’ll toss us one or two after the fact, anyway, and perhaps they can redeem themselves a bit. Time will tell.

 

Addition: Couldn’t really find a great place to slip this in, but I have to say, I actually really enjoyed the whole new take on the Joker persona. A lot of people didn’t like the way his character was written, but I personally didn’t have a problem with it. I like when writers have the balls to do a totally new take on a character we already know and love. And let’s face it, nobody is going to do a Heath-Ledger-like-Joker better than Heath Ledger. So if it’s not going to match up, might as well just go a whole new direction. And I thought Jared Leto killed it.

5 Reasons Why I Love “Stranger Things”

stranger-things-poster-netflix1After all of the hype on Twitter, my social media platform of choice, I couldn’t help my curiosity. I started watching Stranger Things, and after completing the 8-episode first season about half a week later, these are my thoughts.

 

If you haven’t seen the show, I won’t tell you anything about it, because I feel it’s the best way to enter into the viewing experience. I try to keep things relatively general and spoiler-free with my reviews, so hopefully, by the end of this review, you will be thoroughly convinced that Stranger Things should be the next show on your (if you’re like me) seemingly endless Netflix queue.

 

Without further ado, I give you 5 reasons why I love the show Stranger Things, and why you, hopefully, will as well.

 

#5: Intrigue and timing

 

Stranger Things has a way of revealing just enough to keep you interested, but not enough to make you feel like you have any clue what the heck is going on (until you’re supposed to). It’s reminiscent of Wayward Pines or Persons Unknown for me, in that sense, which I love.

I do have to admit, however, that it took two episodes for me to agree with this assessment. Unfortunately, after episode one, I wasn’t entirely “on board.” Due to all of the great reviews I’ve seen from credible sources, I was willing to give the show more of a chance than one episode, but had I stumbled upon the show myself, with no outside encouragement, I’m not sure if episode one would have been enough to spark my interest. I didn’t come away from the first episode with that “omg I have to know what’s going to happen next!” feeling. Episode two, however, won me over completely in that department.

So, long story short, I do think the show has accomplished this great balance of intrigue and timing, but I wish it would have met that standard for me a tad bit sooner. But of course that’s being a bit nitpicky.

 

#4: Connected character arcs that don’t feel forced

 

The convenient thing about this show is its small setting. Being set in a small town in the ‘80s, nobody bats an eye at the “everyone knows everyone” atmosphere. This allows character arcs to intertwine and connect seamlessly, without feeling forced (such as films like He’s Just Not That Into You or Valentines Day), which is something I appreciate. I feel I have a pretty good handle on, and feel invested in, all of the characters that have been introduced. Their stories all matter and I’m interested in every one of the side plots of the show. There hasn’t been any moment, so far, in which I have felt like “okay, this is fine, but can we get back to ______ now?”

 

#3: Winona Ryder

 

It might just go without saying that Winona Ryder is amazing, but in case it needs to be stated, I’ll go ahead and state it. Winona Ryder is amazing.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the whole “mother grieving over a lost child” shtick a billion and a half times, so it’s hard to really work any kind of new angle to that storyline, but somehow she does. I’ve seen this story a million times, but I’ve never seen this mother before. The way Ryder plays this role – the antics and stress and reactions and flashes of emotion across her face – is something entirely fresh, real, raw, and powerfully relatable. There’s a lot of credit to be given to the incredible writers of the show here as well, but good casting and acting can make all the difference. Winona Ryder plays this role incredibly well.

 

#2: Nostalgia

 

There’s something really interesting and lovely about the nostalgic feel Stranger Things elicits. It’s something new and something old at the same time, though it’s really not old at all. Cuddling up to watch Stranger Things with my husband reminds me of being a kid, sitting around the T.V. with my parents and sister to watch old episodes of “Nancy Drew.” Some might argue that this feeling simply comes from the timeline in which the story is set, but there has to be something more than that. I’ve seen plenty of shows and movies set in older times that don’t evoke the same sense of nostalgia. There’s something different here; something comfortable and familiar.

Perhaps the difference lies in the age range of the main characters. Perhaps because the story primarily follows children, it touches more closely on the emotions and experiences this generation would have felt back in 1983. Just a theory.

And this leads me to my final point, my favorite thing about Stranger Things:

 

#1: Outstanding child actors

 

The acting in this show is incredible. I’ve already touched on one of my favorite leading ladies, but the kids in this show deserve special honors. These kids make this show, and they’re incredibly talented.

I was telling my husband that the interesting thing about this story is that someone could write the exact same storyline, following adults instead of children, and it would be entirely believable… and entirely bland. But a cast of talented young actors makes all the difference. It’s incredible, to me, that these kids can so believably pull off the maturity needed to carry this storyline so strongly. The things these characters are experiencing are, clearly, far outside of what they’re expected to be able to handle, but they carry themselves with so much dignity. I love seeing kids handle themselves better than your average adult. It’s a good reminder to all of us of what kids are capable of and what kinds of standards and expectations we should have of them. No more “boys will be boys” or “oh, whatever, she’s just a kid.” Kids are capable of so much more, and we need to stop making excuses for them.

The friendship between this group of misfit boys (+ El) is so reminiscent of The Goonies (which I hated) or The Sandlot (which I loved). Within the first episode, you already know and feel and believe their chemistry and their history as friends. You’re already rooting for them, within the first Dungeons and Dragons scene. You just know these friendships can endure anything, and you know you’ll get to see that unfold, get to see the forces that try, and inevitably fail, to tear them apart. That’s exciting!

It’ll be interesting, however, to see how the age range of the actors will effect the future progression of the show. The problem with using young actors as leads on a television show is that young actors grow up, and they grow up quickly. Obviously these actors can’t simply be replaced with little or no notice from the audience, as is sometimes the custom with less prominent characters, so if this story has a future, the timeline will have to grow and evolve with the children. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that.

 

 

So, there you have it. I have high hopes for the future of Stranger Things, and I think everyone should give it a shot. The first season is available on Netflix, and it’s only 8 episodes long, so what do you really have to lose? Less than 8 hours of your life. And I can pretty much guarantee you they won’t be lost hours, and you’ll find something new to look forward to and enjoy with your family.

Check out the show, and if you do, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter! I have a feeling this is one of those shows that will continue to prompt captivating commentary, discussion, and theories from viewers now and in the future. I’m excited to see what comes next, and I hope you will all be there to join the party.